Frank Johnson, the Washington Bullet guard who missed Tuesday's game in Chicago with a sprained ankle, practiced yesterday and is expected to play tonight when the streaking Indiana Pacers visit the Bullets at 8 o'clock in Capital Centre.
Johnson's controversial foul against Indiana Nov. 28 led to the Pacers' 92-90 victory at Capital Centre. Since then, the Pacers have won seven of 10 games and 10 of their last 14. Three of those losses were in overtime.
For the Bullets to be more successful tonight, they will have to get excellent defense from the guards. Johnny Davis scored 24 points in the last meeting and was primarily responsible for Indiana making up a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
The Bullets led, 69-62, at the end of the third period. But Indiana won when Davis made two foul shots with three seconds left after Johnson was called for leaning on the Pacer guard as he took a desperation shot.
The Bullets also need better outside shooting. They have lost several close games, including the one to Indiana and the last two games, to Chicago and Boston, by failing to make jump shots in the final seconds.
Johnson is the Bullets' best one-on-one player. Although he missed a 24-footer from the top of the key as time ran out against Indiana, Johnson's presence is important to Washington.
"He (Johnson) didn't move with complete ease," Shue said of yesterday's practice, "but it looked like there was no problem. He should be ready to play (today against Indiana). I don't expect he'll start, but he should see a lot of action.
"We just don't have the type of player who can get us a basket when the other team collapses on our inside men," Shue said after the loss to Chicago.
With veteran guard Kevin Grevey in a scoring slump and Brad Holland having been released to make room on the roster for Carlos Terry, the Bullets are not much of an outside shooting threat.
Indiana has moved into second place in the Central Division, 2 1/2 games behind Milwaukee, by getting timely outside shooting from Davis and forcing more turnovers than any other team in the league. But the Bullets have the fewest turnovers in the NBA.
The Pacers and Bullets rank third and fourth in defense, respectively, with both allowing 101 points per game.
The Bullets do appear to have a distinct advantage inside. Center Ricky Mahorn had 21 points and 14 rebounds in the last game against Indiana. And center/forward Jeff Ruland has become the Bullets' third leading scorer with 12 points per game.
If Mahorn and Ruland play a lot together, their bulk could be too much for the Pacers' front liners, Mike Bantom, Herb Williams and Clemon Johnson.
As a special Christmas promotion, tickets usually priced at $9 and $5.50 will be sold at half price, only at Capital Centre, prior to the game.